As my 4-year-old identical twin girls trotted back to school in August, I had a new sense of gratitude and awareness. Like many of you, the past six months have tested my ability to balance being a dad, and leader to the Global Partner Marketing organization. The start of a new school year coincides with the start of Cisco’s new fiscal year – talk about a busy few weeks! My girls adjusted to their new routine of much smaller class sizes and multiple temperature checks and I was in awe of just how resilient and adaptable they were to their new normal.

My Cisco family has also become incredibly resilient and agile in proactively identifying the new challenges our partners face, and quickly turning around solutions to meet those needs. Has it been an easy road? Absolutely not. So many of us as marketing professionals are execution machines; we will Go! Go! Go! and push forward.  We don’t stop until we have done our best, and then we tweak it further to make it even better.

As a leader, I have to remind myself how important it is to be empathetic to the challenges my team members are faced with – beyond the job –  some are taking care of elderly or sick parents, many are trying to balance working from home with taking care of their kids, while others need to find moments to de-compress and take care of themselves.

So how have I supported my team in their search for the right balance during this time? First, I continue to let them know that I care about them and I’m here to support them however they need. We created a new ritual to kick off our team meetings now with a mental health check. Some days, team members struggle more than others. And that’s ok. As leaders, we must continue to rally around our teams especially at time of need. Creating this awareness across the team will allow us to support each other and help us become more effective as a team

Second, I’ve found that being open and transparent, sharing my own mental state and even recent photos of my toddlers on our team calls (or even better – having them make the occasional special appearance!) have allowed me to establish an even deeper connection with my team. It’s incredible how crisis can often bring people closer together. Knowing we are all in the same boat – sharing experiences, learning more and inspiring each other. It’s about finding the balance of listening, sharing and supporting each other so we can bring our whole self to work!

This new practice has given me a sense of comfort I wasn’t expecting, and also allows me to easily shift back to my dad responsibilities as my girls come back home, hand-in-hand carrying their matching Frozen backpacks. To all of my fellow colleagues who are going through anything similar, thank you for everything you’re doing to support your families and your teams. We’re in this together, and I’d love for you to share in the comments below how you’ve found balance.


Boon Lai

Vice President

Global Partner Marketing